Privacy Risk: Social Sites Leave Media Blowing in the Wind

I use pretty much every social media site out there, including Google Plus, Facebook, Flickr, WordPress, Tumblr, and Twitter.

A lot of what I post to these sites is private, however, or at least very limited in terms of access (usually limited to close family and friends). A lot of this private content includes photos and videos.

Based on the security settings of these various sites, I’d always understood that content privacy was consummate. If, for example, I post a photo, I expect that photo to be completely contained within that privacy model.

But that’s not so. It turns out that photos posted to every social media site are published to the web in a completely exposed state. Only if you attempt to access the file through the web site is it protected. If you try to access the media file directly, it’s open to anyone.

Continue reading

You Are What You Post (You Hope)

I moved into a new house earlier this year, and only recently began to feel at home there.

So last week I hauled some boxes out of the garage and began to unpack them.

Most were books that I have read and collected since I was very young.

As I lifted them onto the shelves, one after another, I began to feel like I recognized myself.

It was an unusual feeling, these books one by each revealing a different aspect of my own identity.

I began to wonder how’d I’d recognized my self before that moment. It seemed not at all.

I quickly realized that, like a lot of people, I’ve spent years cultivating an identity online, mainly in social media environments like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

And I realized that the identity I had manufactured didn’t necessarily reflect who I really was. Continue reading

Momento: The App I Wish I Could Marry

Momento Icon

Hi. My name is Andrew and I’m an appaholic.

But, as many apps as I download onto my iPhone (150 so far), I never thought you could actually fall in love with one.

And I don’t mean that cheap, metaphorical love that people have for their favourite foods like spaghetti or brussel sprouts.

I’m talking about that real love that keeps you up at night, dreaming with your eyes open. The kind that some men have for muscle cars. That women have for manicures (or so it seems).

But now I know it’s true. You can love an app. With all your heart.

I know, because I am in love. With Momento [app store link].

I’ve only known Momento a few days, but already I can’t stop thinking about it.

I love the way it gathers up all the crap I leave laying around on the internet.

It goes out and gets my updates from Facebook. It collects my tweets. It gathers my Flickr pics. And it amasses the tracks I’ve loved on last.fm.

Then it lovingly organizes them into a beautiful package that I can browse through and reflect upon.

But what’s really great is that Momento provides me with the opportunity to add new information to this very public assembly of social media brain farts with private reflections and new thoughts that I choose not to share. I can take new pictures and write new notes that stay just with me.

Yes, it’s a journal app. But the way it draws in all of the dope I dump out online, it manages to add a dimensionality to my personal history that I’ve never imagined before. It’s a fascinating way to compare what I think and what I say; what I share and what I save; my inner self and my outer self.

But it’s not just about what it does. Momento fits into that growing category of iPhone apps that are absolutely gorgeous to behold and use. This is an app of user interface splendour, and its authors have crafted it with meticulous care and attention to detail.

I love the faux-paper feel to the app that makes it so akin to a traditional journal. Check out in this screen shot how something like a piece of scotch tape attaches a flickr photo to a journal page.

The way the authors have designed the app to separate entries with subtle dotted lines and mark them with the icons of the social media sources is perfect. Amassed, as in this screenshot, you can see how by collecting snippets of activity from a variety of social media platform can provide a full picture of my behaviour over a period of time.

I also love how you can insert a photo into a private entry if you don’t want to share it online or publicly. Check out the way the authors have given the picture a retro Polaroid style and taped it to the page.

To enhance the collection of information, you can tag entries with the names of people, locations, or any sort of general word or phrase you like. And you can rate your entries with stars. So later, when you want to read all the entries you wrote about a particular person, or at a certain location, it’s a cinch to browse to that tag.

Of course, you can also search all your posts by keyword.

The only single drawback I can think of with Momento, and it’s minor, is that it’s iPhone-only. There’s an export feature to get your data off the iPhone, and of course iTunes backs up your data, so there’s almost no risk of losing your Momento data. (And you can add a passcode to to the app to protect your private entries from prying eyes.) But I’d like the option to view my previous entries and add new ones on my Mac.

And while I consider the current set of social media compatibility adequate (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and last.fm), I’m hoping they add more in coming versions. Personally, I’d like to see support for MobileMe, WordPress and OpenFeint. And maybe YouTube; or maybe not. It’d be nice if it also hooked in events from my iPhone calendar for another dimension of my personal history.

But that’s splitting hairs.

Momento is the perfect tool to mitigate the risk of losing your life to social media. It takes that data back, and then lets you enhance it with new, private thoughts and images. Now that I have it on my iPhone, I can’t imagine ever again being without it. It’s the only app I consider absolutely essential on my iPhone and, yes, I love it.

But unlike those other guys and their muscle cars, I don’t even have to shine it up with Turtle Wax. I can naturally see my reflection in Momento.

Have We No Shame? Thoughts on the Death of Privacy

I’m just teaching my son about the concept of privacy.

How it’s polite to close the bathroom door when you’re in there doing your business. How certain aspects of one’s life should stay within particular conversational contexts.

Like, his grade one teacher doesn’t need to know that Dad turns into a gas bomb when he eats onions.

Oops, but neither do you. And there’s my point.

Too often people seem to drop the concept of privacy, even self-dignity, when online. They share too much. Say too much.

Browsing Flickr the other day, I happened upon a photo of a prominent local public servant responsible for the members of a sensitive social constituency. She’s naked in the bath. Continue reading